Even for a relatively younger franchise like the Ottawa Senators, there are too many big goals to count.
So, when the boss suggested a piece on the Five Biggest Goals in Senators history, it was rather daunting. Still, it was also the moment I was glad not to be writing about the Montreal Canadiens five biggest goals. It would be tough enough to narrow down five each from Rocket Richard or Jean Beliveau or Guy Lafleur.
And yet a 28-year-old franchise like Ottawa has already been involved in 27 Stanley Cup playoff series and scored more than 20 playoff overtime goals. This, along with so many big regular season goals.
It would be easy to come up with a vastly different list. But here we go:
Steve Duchesne vs. Buffalo Sabres, April 12, 1997
After getting the proverbial sand kicked into their faces for four straight seasons, the Senators earned some respect off this single, life-giving goal in Game 82 that launched them into the modern era Stanley Cup playoffs for the first time. To this day, it gets replayed on air enough that every fan knows the punch line call of play-by-play man Dave Schreiber, “Steve Du-du-du-du-du-chesne!! Ottawa leads 1-0!”
Late in the third period Alexei Yashin made the play with his terrific work in the Buffalo zone, spinning and finding Duchesne, who sweeps the puck past Dominik Hasek. The photo of Senators goalie Ron Tugnutt, who tossed the shutout, leaping into the air as the Senators qualified for their first playoff is an iconic team image. Many of us would say Ottawa’s home rink was never louder than on this night. Although Ottawa went on to lose a heartbreaker in overtime of Game 7 to this same Sabres team, the franchise was an expansion laughingstock no more.
Daniel Alfredsson Game 5 OT vs. Buffalo Sabres, May 19, 2007
This goal, a simple flick of the Alfie wrist in a one-on-two situation, really packed a punch. Not only did it lift the Senators into their first Stanley Cup Final, it also redeemed the Senators captain, who had been victimized in the 2006 playoffs by these same Sabres, on an overtime goal by Jason Pominville.
From the moment Alfredsson scored this goal the perception of No. 11 was forever changed. He grew into an iconic figure in Ottawa, even though the Senators fell short of their goal in the final against Anaheim.
A side note: the late Bryan Murray, Ottawa’s head coach at this juncture, was never sold on Ryan Miller as a big game goalie. “He always gives up one bad goal,” Murray used to say. Murray said it before and after he let in Alfredsson’s goal, low to the glove side. He said it again when Sidney Crosby scored the so-called ‘Golden Goal’ in the 2010 Olympics, low, five-hole on Miller. Credit where it is due — both those goals came off the sticks of the shooter in a flash, surprising the goalie.
Neil Brady vs. Montreal Canadiens, Oct. 8, 1992
This was where and when it all began, opening night for the rebirth of Ottawa’s NHL franchise.
Ottawa Citizen sports editor Graham Parley already had a headline sketched out, suitable for the Senators Centurion theme and an expected loss to the Habs: ‘Rome wasn’t built in a day.’ As the night wore on, and it became clear the Senators were going to stun the mighty Canadiens (5-3 final), Parley, changing on the fly, altered his headline: ‘Maybe Rome was built in a day.’
Brady’s goal was a worthy entry into history, a power play tap-in following a series of passes in the Habs zone. I love the roar of the crowd here, impressive considering capacity in the tiny Civic Centre was just 10,449. They were loud and proud of their brand new team.
Igor Kravchuk vs. New Jersey Devils, May 2, 1998
Call me crazy for including an empty-net goal in the top five. This one is worth it even just for Dean Brown’s memorable call in the broadcast booth of the Corel Centre in Ottawa: “Igor Kravchuk! — empty netter! — drives the nail through the Devils’ heart!!”
The goal secured Ottawa’s first playoff series win in the modern history of the franchise, a massive upset over the favoured Devils in six games. New Jersey was the top seed in the East with 107 points while the Senators were 8th with 83.
I love this goal for its simplicity and teamwork. With the Devils desperately pressing, watch No. 20, Magnus Arvedson (The ‘Machine’) utterly sacrifice his body along the boards to chip the puck out over the line to Shaun Van Allen. “Vanner” could have shot the puck into the net himself but selflessly passed on a two-on-one over to the defenceman Kravchuk who had an even better look. The building shook with fan-made thunder as Ottawa’s playoff goal song rang out: Blur – Song 2.
Six overtime goals, 2017 playoff run
OK, we cheated on this one just because we can. In the entire playoff history of the Senators, they have never had a run of overtime moments quite like 2017 — a franchise best SIX overtime goals in one spring. They only have 22 playoff OT goals total. So we are entering those six goals as a single entry. Fans will know these by heart:
Dion Phaneuf, Game 2 OT vs. Boston Bruins, April 15, 2017: A slapper from the point off a Mark Stone pass to beat the Bruins in Game 2 of the quarterfinal series. Boston had won Game 1, 2-1, so this bounce back win was massive.
Bobby Ryan, Game 3 OT vs. Boston Bruins, April 17, 2017: Just two nights later, a rejuvenated Bobby Ryan scored a power play beauty, off a brilliant deep pass from Erik Karlsson, then a drop from Ryan to Kyle Turris, and back to Ryan for the tip-in and a 2-1 series lead for the Senators. Ryan went on to score six playoff goals in this run, and 15 points in 19 games.
Clarke MacArthur, Game 6 OT vs. Boston Bruins, April 23, 2017: This one delivered chills. MacArthur, one of the most beloved Senators, was back from a terrible concussion that had robbed him of nearly the entire regular season (he played the last four games). Now he scores the series winner in OT, against the Bruins team that had embarrassed MacArthur’s Toronto Maple Leafs team in 2013, when the Leafs blew a 4-1 lead in Game 7. This was MacArthur’s last hurrah as a player. Concussion issues ended his playing career following the 2017 playoff run.
Jean-Gabriel Pageau, Game 2, 2OT vs. New York Rangers, April 29, 2017: The chicken parm game. Pageau, grumbling that he was stuffed from two chicken parmesan brunch servings prior to this matinee event, went out and scored FOUR goals including the double overtime winner to secure a 2-0 series lead over the Rangers. The Canadian Tire Centre erupted at goal No. 4 by No. 44, high to the glove side of Henrik Lundqvist as a wild 6-5 game ended and Pageau reinforced his place as a local hero. This same checking centre scored a playoff hat trick against the Canadiens in 2013.
Side note: Senators colour analyst Gord Wilson will never forget the team reaction to Pageau’s fourth goal — right up there with the celebration of Alfredsson’s OT winner against the Sabres in 2007.
Kyle Turris, Game 5 OT vs. New York Rangers, May 6, 2017: Turris got his own rebound to beat the Rangers in overtime, giving Ottawa a 3-2 series lead. Turris also scored an OT winner vs New York in 2012. Turris, the franchise leader in playoff overtime goals with three, scored 12 of his 14 career playoff goals with Ottawa. With the victory, the Senators were one win away from going to the conference final and five of their first seven wins were in overtime.
Bobby Ryan, Game 1 OT vs. Pittsburgh Penguins, May 13, 2017: By his own admission, Ryan had been through a difficult season in 2016-17. His 25 points in 62 games represented the lowest production of his career to that point. But the playoffs were a complete turn of the page, a six-goal, 15-point spring that was Ryan’s most productive playoff since 2007-08 when he was with AHL Portland. This overtime winner — his second of the spring — to open the Eastern Conference Final was a thing of beauty, Ryan out-racing Olli Maata to burst in alone and then fire a backhand inside the far post to beat Marc-Andre Fleury. Live by the OT goal and die by it — the Penguins won the series with a double-overtime goal by Chris Kunitz in Game 7.
Any of several more could crack the Top Five. Sadly, three of the following culminated in series defeats.
Matt Carkner, Game 5 3OT vs. Pittsburgh Penguins, April 22, 2010: Ottawa reporters at Mellon Arena were working the overtime from down in the press workroom, off a delayed TV broadcast and could hear the collective groan through the building, several seconds before we saw the actual goal.
Chris Phillips, Game 6 OT vs. the New Jersey Devils, May 21, 2003: This glorious goal, with the usually defensive-minded Phillips driving to the net to clean up after a Marian Hossa rush, should have meant more in the end. But the Senators couldn’t close the deal in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final on home ice and the Devils went on to win the Cup over the Ducks.
Kyle Turris, Game 4 OT vs. Montreal Canadiens, May 7, 2013: After good old Cory Conacher scored late to force extra time, Turris scored the game winner with a floating screen shot through Peter Budaj.
Mike Fisher, Game 6 OT vs. Toronto Maple Leafs, April 18, 2004: This monstrous win on home ice motivated new Senators owner Eugene Melnyk to declare: “We’re gonna kill ‘em” (in Game 7). Alas, Patrick Lalime had a tough night and Ottawa lost Game 7 in Toronto 4-1. Two days later Jacques Martin was fired as head coach.
Dany Heatley vs. New York Rangers, April 18, 2006: With a little over six minutes left in Game 82 of the regular season, Heatley scored goal No. 50 on the season, on the power play. It was the first time a Senators player had scored 50 in a campaign and Heatley repeated the feat the next season.